Essex puppy breeding gang raked in £850,000 selling sick and dying dogs

Three members of a puppy breeding gang were jailed for a total of 11 months (Image: SWNS)

Three members of a puppy breeding gang were jailed for a total of 11 months (Image: SWNS)

Puppy breeders who sold sick and dying dogs and even kept dead spaniels in a freezer were jailed.

The gang made £850,000 and advertised dogs as ‘home bred’ even though they came from puppy farms in Swindon and Wales.

Police seized nine puppies being kept in a shed on a property in Essex, one of whom died after contracting the deadly parvovirus in the deplorable conditions.

Two miles away, the bodies of two adult spaniels, six cocker spaniel puppies and two dead spaniel puppies were found in a freezer.

Stacey Hayward (41), Kelly Bennett (44) and Ricky Bennett (42) were sentenced to a total of 11 years in prison at Basildon Crown Court.

Around 500 puppies were advertised on Gumtree, Preloved and Pets4Homes between December 2018 and March 2020.

Hayward’s license to sell puppies was revoked four years ago after the dogs kept getting sick, bringing the scam to the attention of the RSPCA.

Cellphone records showed the group used different names and numbers in ads to avoid suspicion, but bank statements revealed many payments with “puppy” as a reference.

Three people have been jailed for their involvement in a puppy sales ring in Essex which was found to have raked in an estimated £850,000. Kelly Jean Bennett (Date of Birth 06/08/1978) and Ricky Jay Bennett (Date of Birth 04/15/1980), both Weymouth Drive, Chafford Hundred, Grays; and Stacey Jane Hayward (d.o.b. 20/10/1980) of Colliford Road, West Thurrock, all appeared at Basildon Crown Court for sentencing on Friday (14 October).

Despite being advertised as ‘home-bred dogs’, the puppies came from illegal breeding farms in Swindon and Wales (Image: RSPCA)

Hayward and Kelly Bennett were the two who sourced and promoted the dogs from puppy farms.

Meanwhile, Ricky Bennett collected the money, which he transferred to the bank account of a fourth member, Steven Foster, 42, whose sentencing has been delayed until November.

A heartbroken family revealed their puppy, bought by the gang for £750, died just a week after bringing him home.

Their easygoing King Charles Spaniel puppy, named Joey, was in an animal hospital on an IV with suspected distemper and pneumonia, which netted them a £2,000 bill.

Three people have been jailed for their involvement in a puppy sales ring in Essex which was found to have raked in an estimated £850,000. Kelly Jean Bennett (Date of Birth 06/08/1978) and Ricky Jay Bennett (Date of Birth 04/15/1980), both Weymouth Drive, Chafford Hundred, Grays; and Stacey Jane Hayward (d.o.b. 20/10/1980) of Colliford Road, West Thurrock, all appeared at Basildon Crown Court for sentencing on Friday (14 October).

Police confiscated nine puppies being kept on the property in appalling conditions (Image: RSPCA)

Three people have been jailed for their involvement in a puppy sales ring in Essex which was found to have raked in an estimated £850,000. Kelly Jean Bennett (Date of Birth 06/08/1978) and Ricky Jay Bennett (Date of Birth 04/15/1980), both Weymouth Drive, Chafford Hundred, Grays; and Stacey Jane Hayward (d.o.b. 20/10/1980) of Colliford Road, West Thurrock, all appeared at Basildon Crown Court for sentencing on Friday (14 October).

Many of the puppies sold were ‘sick or dying’, costing one family £2,000 in vet bills (Image: RSPCA)

Tracey Bridgeman said: “He had seizures and then just a week after we picked him up he had two cardiac arrests and died.

“We’ve only had him for a short time, but we’ve grown so fond of him. We visited him in the hospital every day, hoping he would pull through.

“We were all heartbroken when he died.”

Each trio pleads guilty, two to fraud and one to criminal property acquisition.

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Almost all of the confiscated dogs have since been rehomed (Image: Gables Dogs and Cats Home / SWNS)

Kelly Bennett also pleaded guilty to two felonies under the Animal Welfare Act and was sentenced to 49 months in prison.

Ricky Bennett admitted an offense under the Animal Welfare Act and was sentenced to 36 months in prison, while Hayward was sentenced to 47 months in prison.

All three received a 10-year ban from owning animals.

Inspector Vikki Dawe, from the RSPCA’s Special Operations Unit, said: “The heartbreaking reality of puppy breeding is that the welfare of the puppies takes precedence over making money.

“The amounts of money at stake are simply staggering and it is yet another reminder of how unscrupulous this trade can be and how dangerous poor breeding and trading practices are for dogs, puppies and unwitting consumers.

“Anyone who is considering buying a puppy rather than adopting one – we urge them to do their research, know the signs of an unscrupulous breeder and use tools like the puppy contract to avoid becoming another victim of the puppy trade.”

Almost all of the dogs confiscated from the puppy farm have since been re-homed.

Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at webnews@metro.co.uk.

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https://metro.co.uk/2022/10/18/essex-puppy-farming-gang-raked-in-850000-selling-sick-and-dying-dogs-17584363/ Essex puppy breeding gang raked in £850,000 selling sick and dying dogs

Justin Scacco

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